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Thunderbolts of greed DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 04/23/2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thunderbolts of greed

Herman Tiu Laurel
The Filipino people as a whole have finally awakened to the electrocution they have been victim to by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) passed and signed into law 10 years ago. It took the resistance of our brothers in Mindanao for the rest of the country to realize that a fight does exist between the commonweal and the interest of the oligarchy. For so long, the oligarchs have encroached on and taken over government to execute their extractions of profit and wealth at the expense of the people.

Luzon and the Visayas were first to be hit by the thunderbolts of greed. And perhaps because the shock and confusion at that time was still too novel, both succumbed to defeat. Mindanao, on the other hand, which enjoyed a decade-long exemption from the Epira, had ample time to witness the disastrous economic impact of that law and its deleterious effect on the lives of their brothers northward. And so it was when the oligarchs’ final phase of privatization kicked in, Mindanao was already poised to fight back.

Among the many pivotal personalities who need to be commended in this crusade is Mr. Luis “Louie” Corral, who has been key to preparing the studies that many of Mindanao’s political leaders are using to inform themselves and the public, as well as to prepare for their debates with the Department of Energy (DoE) on the power crisis and the Agus-Pulangi hydroelectric complex. These points — which would have been incontrovertible even by Epira’s standards and those of high power price champion, Sen. Serge Osmeña — were all set to be presented to PeNoy at the Davao power summit two Fridays ago but were set aside because the chief executive opted to harangue the summit’s 1,000 attendees with an irked lecture.

Perhaps because a few sensible people admonished him some time after that, BS Aquino III surprisingly had a change in tone. Last April 21, for instance, it was reported that he gave an order to “Review power rates,” noting that the “…Hike in electricity charges in Visayas,” in regard to the latest Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) approvals of rate hike petitions, “may be unwarranted.”

This announcement, of course, is a heretofore unheard of expression of interest, concern, and sympathy for the plight of power consumers from PeNoy, which we anti-Epira crusaders can only hope is a sign that a spark of realization of the very real and massive problem of power rates in this country has been triggered. We hope, too, that this is a sign that the power of the oligarchs’ agents, such as Serge Osmeña and Dina Abad, is already on the wane. Maybe it is also PeNoy’s realization of the political impact of his failure at the Davao summit, which could seriously damage his 2013 senatorial slate. Whatever it is, we hope BS Aquino III has now finally wised up because the nation will need his support to weather the worst of the electric storms to come.

Louie Corral has an excellent Power Point summation of the thunderbolts that will be hitting us if nothing is done to avert the damage that Epira has caused the 92 million Filipino consuming public. In the section, “The Coming Storm,” we are alerted to: “Additional rate increases from Psalm (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp.)’s P1 trillion stranded costs… as part of the ‘Universal Charge’… (will) cost an additional P0.39 per kilowatt-hour (kWh); (the National Power Corp. or Napocor’s Small Power Utility Group’s) budget shortfall of P7 billion just for 2011… (will cost an) additional P0.07/kWh… (also for) the ‘Universal Charge;’ an additional SPUG budget shortfall of P3.1 billion (going to) the ERC’s Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (Icera) and Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (Gram)… will increase power rates for off-grid areas; the Napocor-Manila Electric Co. P14-billion Court of Appeals settlement may prompt Meralco to pass-through the amount of penalty to its consumers.

“Pending ERC petitions of Meralco, Davao Light and Power, Visayas Electric Co., and other distribution utilities (including 119 electric cooperatives); transition supply contracts between distribution corporations and/or Napocor and the privatized generating firms end(ing) in 2011 (that) are up for renewal… (noting that since) these generating companies are defined under the Epira as not being utilities, and therefore not subject to a 12-percent ceiling on (their rates of return)… the end result is that… generation charges will zoom up with their new contracts; transition supply contracts of independent power producers (IPP)… selling through an IPP Administrator (salesman or middleman) end(ing) in 2011… will bring up generation charges (with new IPP contracts); the proposed Renewable Energy program with its feed-in tariff would tie the country up to immature, unreliable and expensive power that would entail an additional P0.1256/kWh; the Supreme Court case on the illegal dismissal of Napocor workers that will net back wages of up to P48 billion…”
Louie adds: “Every one centavo per kWh increase represents P657,000,000 per annum (based on current demand of 7,300 megawatts); one centavo/kWh of power increase means 40 percent or P263,000,000 taken away, which should be food for the poor (based on lifeline rates); (while) 10 percent (of it) or P118,000 represents educational costs, medicine, transportation or house rentals.”

There are many, many more alerts issued by Louie that we will have to include in our next columns. But there is an important one that we must highlight right now: The much-vaunted full “open access,” which the DoE and ERC keep claiming will bring down rates, but which may instead cause rates to rise as large scale commercial/industrial consumers like giant malls and the like set up their own power plants, causing Meralco and its ilk to compensate for lost revenues by filing petitions for more rate hikes. At this point, only fools won’t see that these are the unintended consequences of an ill-thought-out, greed-motivated, corruption-tainted privatization law.

(Tune in to 1098AM, dwAD, Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m.; watch Destiny Cable GNN’s HTL edition of Talk News TV, Saturdays, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11:15 p.m., for constant updates on “The power thunderbolts to hit;” visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives)

(Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20120423com5.html


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